Tuesday, August 26, 2008

That which does not kill me...

...will ultimately make me stronger. I've had two days of graduate school, and already I feel like I've learned so much. A lot of this learning has come through making mistakes, and that is never easy. However, I keep telling myself that if I already knew everything, I would not have to be in school. So much of the vital knowledge in my field can only come with experience. My supervisor for my observation hours told me once, "Katie, our clients don't read the textbooks." She said this because I noted that a child was actually making sounds more difficult for herself instead of easier. However, that child did not read my textbooks and did not know that sounds at the front of the mouth are generally easier to produce than sounds at the back of the mouth.
I am realistic enough to know that I will not be this into learning once November or even October hits. I will be scrambling around to finish assignments and get signatures and write reports. Hopefully I will do a little bit better at time management this semester and still have time to let everything I'm learning soak in.
Speaking of which, I should probably go to bed!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

ASHA speaks up about autism

ASHA, or the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (the "l" would throw off the snazzy acronym ;) ) recently spoke up in response to remarks by both major presidential candidates concerning autism. Apparently, both candidates indicated the belief that vaccines are contributing to the rising number of autism diagnoses. ASHA's response was to send a letter to both candidates to commend their respective interests in autism, but to urge them to base their comments (and policy!) on scientific evidence. As many of you may know by now, the evidence has thus far failed to establish any link between vaccines and autism. I'm really glad that my professional organization was paying attention and spoke up to inform the candidates about this important and growing issue.
ASHA is the organization that is responsible for certifying speech-language pathologists in this country to practice. We also have to get licensed by the state in which we practice, and sometimes the organization through which we work (for example, the public schools). The ASHA website has materials for parents and educators as well as for professionals, so if you need some resources, check it out! :)
I'll get off my professional soapbox now. :)

Here we go...

I can't believe that it all starts Monday. I will meet my first client at 9am. I already feel awkward, inexperienced, all volume and enthusiasm. There so much to get done in the first week for clinic alone; I am afraid that my academic classes are going to suffer under the barrage of clinical paperwork. Hopefully this will all become routine soon. I hear repeated activities tend to do that. I also hear that students have survived this before, although I am doubtful. ;) In fact, the load used to be heavier, but the professors listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth and made some adjustments. I have a whole new respect for medical students.
Wish me luck!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Speak of the devil...

My reaction to this comedy gem was something along the lines of, "They...said that? Out loud? That's kind of...really? But it's so stupid and asinine!" In an earlier post I mentioned the satirical lyric, "If you're not a friggin' tard you will prevail." I have issues with that line, but I honestly didn't notice it until I read the lyrics to the song. This movie scene is so disgustingly blatant that I am at a loss for words...to believe that anyone could chortle over that trash would be to give up my faith in human decency.
I think anyone who cracks such base "retard jokes" should have to explain to any puzzled individuals with special needs why these jokes are funny. I bet the instances of "retard jokes" would drastically decrease once the ones cracking them have to deal with the consequences.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Melting down and mathematics

Joey's mom wrote a very insightful post about meltdowns a while ago that got the cogs turning in my brain. My brother has special needs, although he does not have autism, and I had about 15 false starts on a comment on her post to try and address meltdowns without saying too much personal information about my brother. I just don't think he would appreciate it. And then I thought, "Duh, Katie! Math!"

I am a very verbal person. I have always loved words, and words have always come easily to me. I am not a numbers person. As a child I developed a sort of mental block around math. I hated math, and math would always be hard and dumb. I could feel my brain shutting down when I sat down in front of a sheet of math problems. When I tried to verbalize how I was feeling, all I came up with was, "It's hard. My brain doesn't work that way. It just doesn't." I think what bothered me the most about math was how all the concepts they taught you seemed so random and unrelated to each other. I never understood the logic behind how I was taught to solve the problems, and I had trouble just blindly memorizing the steps. I often gave up because I just did not care. My parents had and have high expectations of me, and I was expected to get A's in my other classes, but with math...they learned to settle with low B's and C's. (Yeah, horrible grades, I know. The real bad ones came at college-level French, which is another post entirely ;) )

Slightly guilty confession: In high school I got diagnosed with a learning disability in math so my SAT scores wouldn't look so bad. I'm pretty sure I got in on a technicality; there was a large gap between my verbal IQ and my math IQ and apparently that gap is what determines if you have a disability.

Just recently I was encouraged to tutor children struggling with 5th grade math. I was so stressed out about it that I cried. My assigned child showed up extremely rarely, but the one time our paths crossed I had to call over the professor multiple times because I did not and do not know how to do fifth grade math. It was extremely embarrassing and frustrating.

Now, I am grateful for my experience with math. I understand how it feels now to have one's brain just shut down when presented with a task, and to not feel capable of turning it back on. Having a tantrum was so much easier than solving those math problems. It's still easier for me to count on my fingers to figure out 7+9 than to reason that since 7+7 is 14, 7+9 must be just 2 more, i.e 16. It is nothing like what it must be to have multiple brain shutdowns across the board like what I gather can happen during a meltdown, but it is a small-scale something that I can use to relate.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Who wants to know?

In this day and age, most research is done online. Colleges get electronic subscriptions to articles and make them available to students via huge databases. If your library doesn't have it, you can interlibrary loan it and another library will send it to you. This means that students can accumulate a lot of articles over the course of doing papers in various classes.
I am one of those students. ;) I have so many articles about autism saved to my computer and filed away in my file drawer. I have a whole folder of narrative and autism and another whole folder of echolalia and autism. I also have a lot about token economies and a bit about the PALS language test.
I have also kept almost all of my textbooks. I have three just about neurology and how it relates to communicate disorders. Apparently the brain is complicated; who knew? ;)
Mind, I am just a student. I do not have much practical experience to back up all of these articles and textbooks. But since I have access to these resources, I might as well use them. Therefore, I was wondering if anyone has any questions or needs any resources that I might be able to provide. Sign language, PECS, when children normally start using sentences, what new programs are out there and what evidence there is that they work, what speech-language pathologists are in your area...anything about language, really. I am loving this website and all the sharing and growing that I see happening, but as I have no child of my own, I cannot share myself. When I get clients this fall, there is only so much I can share about them, if anything at all, due to confidentiality. And I want to give back a little, because I am learning so much! So please, if I can answer any question or provide you some ammo for those IEP meetings, let me know!